34. Precious Stones
There are common stones, of no special beauty, but useful in building; and there are precious stones. These have lovely colors. Many of them are exceedingly hard, taking a brilliant polish. They are also transparent to the sunlight and refract it to our eyes with rainbow tints.
Are there also among our mental stones of fixed, unchanging fact, both common and precious ones? The fact that Columbus discovered America in 1492; is it a precious or a common stone? It is sure and hard, but it has no special beauty. The fact that "the LORD is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works;" this is a fact even surer than the other; it is a crystal too (Chapter 33) , and it is transparent to the heavenly sunshine; it reveals to us something of the Lord's love and wisdom. Hard, literal facts from the Lord's Word, which transmit the love and wisdom of heaven, are the precious stones; they are to the dull, opaque stones of common fact as the rainbow to the dark cloud. (AE 717; AC 9407) "O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations of sapphires. And I will make thy windows of rubies, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children." (Isa. liv. 11-13) Taught of the Lord! Truths from Him which reveal the beauty of His love, and on which we build and find peace from affliction and tempest; these holy truths are the precious stones. (AE 717; PP; AC 9407, 9873, 655, 1298) Other equally beautiful passages come to mind; but let us first notice that the colors of the gems are an indication of the kind of holy truth which each represents. Can anyone tell the color of the precious stone used as our first example: "The LORD is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works"? It is a warm color, you say, perhaps red; for it is glowing with the Divine love which it reveals. (AC 9865) Or that stone on which the Lord builds His church, for that is a holy truth, "a tried precious stone": "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." It is certainly a cooler stone, but hard and brilliant. (AC 9872)
Swedenborg tells us many beautiful things about colors and their various blendings. All colors are derived from red and white, some times with black. Blue is a blending of white with black. If you have used the blow-pipe you know the brilliant blue made by a white sublimate on the black charcoal. Whitish smoke against a dark background looks blue; and it is probable that the blue of the sky is chiefly due to the fact that we look through the lighted air to the black beyond. Yellow is white warmed with red, the two inseparably blended. Yellow cannot, it is true, be made by mixing red and white, but it certainly contains the white, and also a touch of fire. With these colors given, we know how red blending with yellow passes into orange, or blending with blue, passes into purple. Blue with yellow gives us green in all its shades.
You may have been taught to regard red, yellow, and blue as the colors from which all others are made. You need not reject that idea, but think that yellow is itself composed of red and white, and blue of white and black.
Thinking now of the meaning of these colors: red, warm and fiery, always speaks to us of love; white, with its cool brightness, is the clear light of wisdom; while black is the humble sense of our own ignorance and nothingness. All the lovely colors of the rainbow and of the precious stones, if our eyes were open to read their message, would speak to us of the Lord's love and wisdom in their infinite combinations. Blue tells of infinite wisdom made more lovely by the sense of our own ignorance. Blue is the color which arches over us as we look up to heaven and the Lord. Yellow tells of love and wisdom inseparably blended, as they are in useful works. How beautiful that yellow is the color of ripened harvests! Green, which is blue blending with yellow, suggests intelligence leading to use. How could the grass and foliage, which correspond to intelligent thoughts preparing for useful works, have any other color! (Chapter 21) And so with the infinite variety of colors and shades. (AC 9467, 9865; AE 364, 1324; AR 231, 915)
We shall not attempt here to learn the correspondence of particular gems, and partly for the reason that the names by which the precious stones are called in the Bible are in many cases uncertain, and often we do not surely know what stone is meant. But so much we can know, that the ruby and other fiery stones represent holy truths revealing to us the Lord's Divine love (AC 9865; AE 401); a white, transparent stone, and the blue sapphire, with their cooler beauty are holy truths revealing the Divine wisdom (AC 9407, 9868, 9873; AR 897); the emerald is a holy truth revealing wisdom in a humbler form, but applicable to use. (AE 269; AR 232)
In the Proverbs we find evidence that the wise ancients knew that precious stones are emblems of holy truths. "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies." (Prov. iii. 13, 15) "There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel." (Prov. xx. 15) And in job: "Where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?. It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. It cannot be valued with the gold of ophir, with the precious onyx and sapphire. The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls; for the price of wisdom is above rubies. The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold. Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?" (Job xxviii. 12, 15-20; AE 717; AC 9873, 9865)
How beautiful are these words addressed to the king of Tyre, when we know that Tyre with its commerce in a good sense represents the understanding searching the realms of knowledge for things serviceable to the spiritual life! (Chapter 38) "Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the ruby, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold." (Ezek. xxviii. 12, 13) The holy truths from the Word, which these gems represent, transparent with colors of love and wisdom, are what the unperverted understanding prizes; they make up its sum of wisdom. (AE 717; P. P; AC 9863, 9407; TCR 219; SS 45, 97) This promise is made to the church in Pergamos, by which are meant "those who place the all of the church in good works, and not any thing in truths of doctrine ": "To him that overcometh will I give . . . a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." (Rev. ii. 17) It is a promise to the faithful that they shall receive what they now lack, a conviction of Divine truths, which though it may not outwardly change their lives, gives life a new meaning and blessedness to them. (AR 121-123; AE 147, 148) Among the sacred things made by Divine commandment for use in the representative Jewish worship, was the breastplate to be worn by Aaron, the high priest, when he went in to inquire of the Lord. "And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work. . . . And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones the first row shall be a ruby, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this shall be the first row. And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. And the third row a lazure, an agate, and an amethyst. And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper; they shall be set in gold in their inclosings. And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel." (Exod. xxviii. 15-21) We are taught that responses were given from the Lord by variegations of color flashing from the gems of the breastplate, which were interpreted to the priest either by a voice or by an internal perception. (AC 6640, 9905; TCR 218; AE 431) Aaron was the medium of communicating the messages of Divine love to the people. All his holy vestments were representative of the lovely forms of truth in which the Lord's love finds expression. Especially the twelve gems of the breastplate in which the message flashed with heavenly colors; they stand for all the literal Divine truths of the Lord's Word glowing with the Divine love and wisdom which they transmit. In these gems of holy truth answers from the Lord flash for us in varied tints of love and wisdom. (AC 9856-9909; AE 717; TCR 218; AR 540; SS 44)
Turn now to the Revelation and read of the wall of the holy city. "And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst." (Rev. xxi. 18-20) Surely it is a renewal of the ancient prophecy, "Behold I will lay thy stones with fair colors, . . . and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD." (Isa. liv. 11-13) It is a vision of a church or of an individual life built upon the rock of Divine truth which no storm can shake; against which hell cannot prevail. The foundations and the walls of the holy city are the sure, eternal truths of doctrine from the letter of the Word, on which the Lord's New Church in the world and in every soul must be founded, and by which it is defended. And they are no common facts, but holy truths, transparent to the Lord and heaven, alive within with the colors of Divine love and wisdom. (AR 914, 915; AE 1320-1324, 717; SS 43; TCR 217; AC 9407, 9863)